Alaska Mumps Outbreak //

September 8, 2017

By Dr. Ross Van Camp

Child with mumps

In the five years before 2016 there were one or less mumps cases diagnosed in Alaska.  In July 2016, two cases were diagnosed in the Fairbanks area.  In 2017 there have already been eight cases diagnosed, most in the Anchorage area.  No cases in Seward have been detected, but it could easily spread to our area.

Mumps is caused by a virus.  It causes disease two to three weeks after contact with an infected person in about 85% of unprotected people.  It is transmitted by being exposed to the cough, unwashed hands or objects (door knobs, utensils) that an infected person has touched.  Mumps usually causes sever swelling of one or both sides of the jaw, through inflammation of the parotid gland.  It is often accompanied by headache, fever and loss of energy a few days before the swelling starts.  People are most infectious in the early stages of the disease.  Severe testicular swelling and pain occurs in 10% of young men, with some becoming sterile as a result.  It can also cause permanent deafness.  Most people recover from the illness in two to three weeks.

Mumps is a viral illness that can usually be prevented by immunization.  Since immunization is 99% effective in preventing transmission in a group of people, large mumps outbreaks are associated with unvaccinated groups of people.  Recent outbreaks in other states have infected up to 3000 people.  People with immunodeficiency and pregnant women cannot receive this live virus vaccine, so they depend on the large majority of people around them to be vaccinated, preventing the spread of the disease.  Mumps vaccine is given along with measles and rubella vaccines at one and four years of age.  The vaccine should be given to adults if they were born after 1957 and do not have evidence of vaccination or proof of immunity by blood tests.  It is especially important to ensure that you are immune before becoming pregnant.

There is no specific treatment for mumps, but very sick people may need medical support.  If you feel that you may have mumps, you should identify your suspicion when calling for a medical appointment and be kept out contact with other patients as much as possible.  Anyone exposed to mumps should stay home (away from school, work and public gatherings) from the 12th to the 25th day after exposure to prevent exposure of more people.  Anyone with mumps should avoid public places for at least five days after the swelling starts.